By Jeffrey Roberson
¿Puedes hablar español? Or is it “puede?” If you have plans to travel to a country and you do not speak their language, then Mango Languages was made for you! With the Office of Intramural Training and Education’s new subscription, you can learn travel-related vocabulary and phrases for a host of different languages through this conversation-based program. For our international fellows, Mango Languages could prove to be an invaluable resource for getting some quick tips about the English language and American culture.
A recently heightened emphasis on the use of technology for learning a second language has led to the development of numerous different programs that all have unique aims. According to The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language, the goals of a comprehensive language program are cultural and communicative competency. Adopting a conversation-based approach, Mango Languages exposes you to phrases and signs you would see in mass transit stations, restaurants, and for accommodations.
For those of us who have taken formal second language courses, you will notice that the Mango Language program avoids explicit grammar education. Gone are the days of conjugation tables and rote memorization. Instead, the Mango Languages approach assumes that you will grasp the necessary grammar for your trip through the mock conversations. While you may not be able to use complex verb tenses after a few weeks, Mango Languages will allow you to express basic desires and interests.
A common criticism of online language learning programs is that they do not provide the cultural experience and exposure that traditional courses can provide. In order to account for this shortcoming, Mango Languages has “Cultural Notes” that periodically appear throughout your lessons. These notes will provide you information on topics such as how to dress (long pants versus shorts, shoulders covered versus uncovered) as well as tipping customs in restaurants and taxicabs. Although this does not provide direct exposure, it can at least help you avoid being the only person wearing shorts and sandals in all of Buenos Aires!
The flexibility of online learning is extremely attractive for busy professionals. The ability to decide when and where you want to study allows you to create an individualized learning process. Nevertheless, learning a language cannot be done in one day. Instead, it requires dedication and constant practice. While Mango Languages does track your progress, there are, of course, no repercussions for a lack of practice that would typically occur in a traditional classroom. Dedicate at least two hours per week to your studies, and you will acquire enough English to understand in which cities you should use the words “subway” and “metro.” Yes, there is a distinction!
In order to begin your exploration into a different language and culture, register for a new account through this link: http://org.mangolanguages.com/nih/login?u=870054. To benefit from the OITE’s subscription, you must sign up for an account from an NIH computer. Once you have created an account, consider downloading the Mango Languages smart phone application so that you can practice anywhere and everywhere!